AJMAN // Speaking on the eve of this game, the Ajman coach Abdul Wahab Abdul Kader had predicted two scenarios. Either Al Ain, smarting from their worst defeat in 27 years, would vent their frustrations on the hosts, or they would still be reeling from their opening day 6-3 loss to Al Ahli and Ajman might be able to take advantage.
Unfortunately for the Iraqi, the first was true. With their fans standing firmly behind them, Al Ain stamped their superiority in a 4-1 win and Cosmin Olaroiu saluted the reaction of his players.
"These three points were very important for us after the big loss in the first game," he said. "But, more importantly, I am pleased with the character the team showed in coming back from that defeat. They played almost the same way we played last year.
"I am very happy with this reaction. We needed this reaction and they showed their intent from the first minute. They looked a different team."
The league champions were leading 2-0 after just 11 minutes, with Asamoah Gyan scoring both, before Fawzi Fayez's header gave them a 3-1 advantage going into the break.
Four minutes into the second half, Mohammed Abdulrahman struck the fourth for Al Ain, exorcising the ghosts of the Ahli game.
"We cannot forget we are the Super Cup winners and the defending league champions," Olaroiu said. "The Ahli game was an accident. Our players, I think, were a bit over excited after the Super Cup win. They could not control their emotions and made some mistakes. Maybe some players did not give 100 per cent.
"Now the players are back to how they played last season and I hope we will continue like this."
On the evidence of their performance yesterday, Al Ain certainly seem to be back on track. They got down to business from the first whistle, showing no signs of reprising the shambles against Ahli on Sunday night. They made a blistering start and earned a penalty in the fifth minute when Mohammed Abdulrahman went down following a tangle with an Ajman defender. Gyan coolly converted from the spot.
The Ghanaian added a second six minutes later, muscling his way past an Ajman defender after receiving Jires Kembo Ekoko's cross and then placing the ball through the legs of the advancing Ajman goalkeeper Ali Mesmari.
Founeke Sy, who has scored five goals in his first three matches for Ajman, pulled one back for the hosts with a blistering free kick in the 19th minute and that goal must have brought back memories of Al Ain's last game for the visiting fans.
On the pitch, Al Ain looked a bit jittery as well, but Fayez's 44th-minute header, following Omar Abdulrahman's deft footwork and cross, brought the cheers and smiles back to the supporters in the visitors' galleries.
The Al Ain fans had more celebrations coming their way in the second half as Mohammed Abdulrahman sneaked past the Ajman defence to volley home his brother Omar's corner in the 49th minute.
There was no Ajman fightback. They did not have a finisher like Ahli's Grafite in their ranks; even Karim Kerkar was absent through injury. The Iraqi midfielder Karrar Jassim played with a thigh injury, but was forced to leave the pitch early in the second half as his discomfort increased.
"We are struggling with injuries, but this is normal in football," Abdul Kader said. "Every club faces this situation. Hopefully, once our injured players are back we will start producing better results."
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